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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Very touchy subject

When I was in Melbourne in July, I saw a play called "The Gift" at MTC.
Synopsis was really vague (I realised after seeing the play that it was done on purpose), but I love theater and try to indulge every chance I get, so in I went with no expectations whatsoever.

Here's what the play was about.
Mature couple (late 40's) celebrates their wedding anniversary at a fancy resort on an island. Their marriage has gone a bit stale: no serious or obvious problems, but the passion is gone. They have no children.They are wealthy,as the husband has a successful home appliance company. He started it from scratch and continues to prosper.
While having dinner, they meet a much younger couple. That couple, in contrast, is not wealthy at all. In fact, they won the trip in a raffle.They are very much in love with all the abandon of youth.They have young daughter (she is back home).
The four immediately hit it off, talking most of the night and truly enjoying and appreciating each other's company.
The young husband is an installation artist, hoping to "make it big" and having some serious prospects to do so.
The older guy doesn't even understand what "installation art" means...LOL.. The dialogue is spectacular!
The next morning older,wealthy guy hires a boat for four of them to cruise around the island: he wants to continue the friendship, and everyone feels the same.
After an amazing day of sailing, sudden storm hits and the older guy is thrown overboard. His wife is frantic-"He cannot swim!" she cries.
Younger guy jumps into the sea, brings his friend aboard, but it seems that it's too late-no signs of life. But the youngster doesn't give up: he perseveres with mouth-to-mouth until the older guy starts breathing again.
Everyone rejoices, they get safely ashore and older couple is understandably very grateful. They want to give young people a gift, something substantial (one of the offerings was a prized horse).
But young people won't have any of it:they were happy to help, really enjoyed their new friends' company and are happy that everything ended well.
Then the older wife has a brilliant idea: "Why don't we re-convene in a year's time?" she said. Today is truly my husband's new birthday, as he was literally brought back from the dead, so we should get together next year to celebrate and THEN, after giving it some thought, you can tell us what you want for a gift.
Seems like a great idea and it's decided. End of  Act I.

Second act is set (predictably) a year later at the older couple's place. Younger couple did come to celebrate. They all talk about the events of the year past. Lots happened.
Younger guy did, in fact,make it big as an installation artist: his work was exhibited in one of the major art shows and drew attention of some prominent patrons.
Older guy discovered art: he visited quite a few galleries and, in stark contrast to the last year, is now well versed in different art styles, artists and their techniques.
Older couple's romance, it seems, gathered new strength as well. Wife giggles as she talks about their new found passion.
Then the time comes for the young couple to finally reveal what it is they want for a gift. "We will not take "nothing" for an answer"-the older woman issues the ultimatum.
Younger people are hesitant. They clearly have something in mind, but don't know where to begin. Finally, the husband tells a story. It is about a puppy they once had:one of those seing-eye guide dogs that are placed with regular families for a year to help them adjust and then are taken away to be trained.
Young man describes how they've come to love the dog and how his wife didn't want to part with it. He rang the agency and tried to buy the dog, but, of course, was denied (if we do it for you this once, then we'd have to do it for everyone else and what would be the point of the program then?).
The day came for the dog to be picked up. They both cried. Then it was gone, they sat down to have a glass of wine and, after an hour or so, realisation settled in: they felt...relieved... No more buying dog food and toys, no more worrying about dog being alone in the house, no more tailoring their free time to adjust to dog's sitter schedule, no more compulsory "toilet" walks in all kinds of weather, no more vet visits and bills... They felt free. Yes, they loved the dog very much and still missed him, but this feeling of freedom run parallel to that love, not interfering with it or diminishing it.
Older couple was puzzled. They weren't sure where this was leading. They asked for clarification.
Younger wife told another story. She talked of their daughter. How smart and intelligent she was (the girl was 5), how much they loved her.
She also talked about the fact that the girl was "an accident", definitely unplanned. She went on talking about how we all only have one "pool of love" and when you have kids, you have to deep into that same "pool" ,thus reducing amount of love for your partner,as there is only so much "love" in the pool. Not to mention the time you have to devote to kids (and one cannot stretch 24 hours, so it takes away from time spend with one's partner).
They both talked about how they just not meant to be parents. Not because they neglect their child (far from it) or don't provide for her, but just because they don't know "how".
For instance, husband said, we don't know how to play. Yes, he gets down on the floor with his daughter and tries to pretend, but he just can't get into it. It gives him no joy, only frustration and annoyance.
Then there is constant worry. What if something happens to their daughter, what if a stranger grabs her on the way to school, what if she gets a horrible disease,what about when she gets older... The list goes on and on...
As a result of all that, they both don't function at full capacity at their jobs, it curbs young husband's creativity and reduces the time he spends working (and he is undoubtedly talented), they argue a lot and feel that their love suffers.
Bottom line: they want older couple to take the daughter. For good. They feel everyone would be much better off that way.
Older couple always wanted kids, but were not able to conceive. They have all this love they want to give and they have all the time in the world and plenty of money-it wouldn't be a strain on them.
As a result the kid would be much happier and her future would be assured.
Younger couple would be free to develop their talent further and devote themselves to their love for each other.
At first the older couple is aghast.. They cannot believe what they are hearing. They tell younger people that, of course, they are good parents, how can they not be?? That everyone is,it's the nature's instinct. Surely, they just having a rough patch...
Very compelling argument ensues from both sides. Again, the dialoque in this play is amazing.

I was really surprised, as that was the first time I encountered this highly controversial subject matter to be presented AND both points of view represented equally and objectively. There was no slant in either direction. In the end, it was alluded that  younger couple got their wish and no judgement was given as to whether or not it was a good or bad thing: it was left to the audience to formulate their own opinion.

I am very partial to this subject.
From the age 19, I knew with every degree of certainty that I absolutely did not want to have kids. Ever.
I've never heard the ticking of "biological clock" and now, so many years later, I am very happy with my decision and, although I have regrets about some other areas of my life, this is most definitely not one of them.
In fact, it is almost a weekly occurrence when I think, in passing, how grateful I am that I stuck to my guns and did not fold under the pressure of society, my parents or my ex-husbands to have a baby.
I simply do not believe I would make a good parent. Yes, I would most definitely give it my best, but it would've made me profoundly unhappy and resentful.
I also do not have a great deal of patience and I don't believe in the old adage about "you'll find the love/patience when your child is born". I don't think it happens every single time. Some people are just not meant to be parents.
We are so conditioned by society that this is "the way": women are nurturing, they are "mothers", it's their nature. Every woman must have a child to "fulfil" her inner calling.
Well, I am a living testament to the fact that some of us do not have that "calling" and it's not necessarily a bad thing.
Children are all-consuming. They take over your life,pretty much. Some people crave that, they can't wait to get into the motherhood. And  it is beautiful, it truly is.
But for others children represent the end of their dreams and aspirations. It is a fact.

I have a couple of true life stories to support my theory.
My parents had me almost 6 years after they got married. My mother was a very successful professional athlete (volleyball). She played for Soviet National team. With grueling schedule of practices and never-ending competitions, she simply had no time for maternity leave.
Besides, Mom never excelled at school, she wasn't particularly beautiful and with her sports career, for the first time, she felt special. She was finally "someone". Her photos were published in Russian papers (along with the photos of other players, of course), articles were written about her. She was definitely a valued player: team would struggle without her. There were also trips to foreign countries, financial rewards (and mom was from a rather poor family), so it was absolute magic for her. And it did require a lot of hard work and dedication. Professional sport in Russia back then was really harsh and highly competitive.
Mom always had a fiery temper (I inherited that from her) and one day she had a huge argument with her coach. To spite him, she went off her birth control and got pregnant with me (so she would not be available for the next few months and he had one devil of a time to maintain team's position up on the top).
According to both Mom and Dad, her pregnancy was miserable. She was sick all the time and acquired some paranoid tendencies. There was none of that "happy glow".
When she finally had me, she couldn't keep awake to feed me. She almost suffocated me twice, falling asleep while feeding. Plus, her milk proved inadequate: it was too thin and there was not enough of it.
Back then we didn't have baby formula in Russia. Instead, local clinics had a program where mothers with plenty of milk bottled it and gave it to the clinics and others,who didn't have enough of their own, could come and pick it up.
My Dad had to go get the milk every day, he woke up every single time to feed me and, basically, was with me all the time.
Mom went back to training 1.5 months after having me. She couldn't be happier to be back at work.
About a year later my Dad's career picked up speed as well. He made it to Soviet National Team in sports sailing.
Both him and Mom had to travel all the time for training and competitions all over the country and the World.
Aged 5, I was now permanently living with my grandparents. I went through kindergarten and school living with them.
When my parents were in town, I would see them on weekends. As back then our school was 6 days a week (Sat being a full day of school), I would take a bus to my parent's flat Sat afternoon and come back to my grandparent's Sun night.
That's how travelling started,as during the school holidays I would travel to whatever city my Dad happen to train (and later coach) in and spend some time with him.
I am not saying this with regret: I think the situation made me a better person, definitely more prepared for life.
From the very early age I was self-sufficient and held responsible for my actions. I had to do my own homework, without anyone supervising me or reminding me ( and I was required to produce top grades). I had to entertain myself (I read a lot)-there was none of that "I'm booooored" shit happening,as both my Mom and grandma would immediately make me do chores (like housecleaning,washing,etc) if I said that...LOL..
I had to heat up my own meals, learn how to use public transport by myself and look out for myself when I was crossing the roads,etc
As my Dad was working most of the day when I visited him in other cities, and we always stayed in hotels, I learned how to order meals in the restaurants, how to manage my allowance, how to ask concierge for help, how to figure out transport system in unfamiliar city,etc.
Bottom line: I think I am so well adjusted today due to my unusual upbringing.
My Mom and I never really bonded. To this day we only get along when we are far away from each other(talking on the phone every week suits both of us just fine). When we get to be in the same space, peace lasts only a day or so, then arguments start...
I was very close with my Dad for a long time. In the past few years that has changed and I very much regret it, but it is a subject for another entry.
The moral of this story: I don't think my Mom was ever meant to be a parent. She never wanted it and never enjoyed it. It was not her calling. It doesn't make her a bad person, though, not at all. She is actually very warm, thoughtful and caring. She helped a lot of people (without any kind of reward) throughout her life. She just doesn't have the "parenting" gene.

Another story is about a childhood friend of mine.
Her name was Inga-she lived in the same building as my grandparents for a while. Her story was similar to mine.
Her parents were  very successful, talented surgeons (cardiology). She was an "accident". They had absolutely no time in their busy career to raise a child-they were "on-call" most of the time and absolutely exhausted when they were at home. They saved a lot of lives and gave hope to many people. They brought people's loved ones from "beyond the grave" many times when all hope seemed to be lost..
Inga's grandparents were very wealthy: her grandfather was a general in Russian Army and back then it was a huge deal. He had a government car in his disposal (for both personal and professional use), huge salary and endless perks.
Inga's parents dotted on her: she had nothing but the best. Best fresh food (available only at the "government" stores to government employees), best schools, best private tutors,best clothes. They went on fabulous vacations to Russia's premiere resorts ( you really don't know what "opulence" is until you see one of Russian "government only" holiday retreats).
Yes, Inga would probably not go hungry or uneducated if she lived with her parents, but she would not see them much, be left with nannies most of the time and, generally, she would not be better off.
Her grandparents gave her a better quality of life, more nurturing and loving upbringing.
She did see her parents-about once a year or so. She called them by their names (Dima and Natasha), rather than "Mom" and "Dad"-those titles were reserved for her grandparents,as it reflected the situation correctly.

As we all know, things are hardly ever black and white. Life is, mostly, different shades of gray.
Sometimes we take what society tells us to be a "norm" as a gospel truth, without giving it a second thought.
We condemn those who voice a different opinion. Perhaps, before we do so, we should ponder all "nooks and crannies" of the issue.

My believes are so strong, I've terminated seven pregnancies. They didn't happen because I was careless (well, except for the first one)-sometimes various birth control methods fail, no matter how diligent you are.
I am a huge supporter of "pro-choice". I firmly believe that terminating a pregnancy at an early stage is a responsible thing to do, vs. bringing a child to the world and then not giving him/her all the love, attention and care they need. Or, worth yet, have the Government care for your child, whether directly or through supporting the mother.

A lot of people use pregnancy as a means to manipulate other person- I find it absolutely reprehensible.
Both women AND men do it! Sometimes guys are hoping to "tie" their wives/girlfriends down with a baby, so they don't further their education, quit their job and stay home, relying solely on their husbands for financial support. This makes me sick.
One of my ex-husbands did (or,rather, tried doing) this to me. I suspect he poked the whole in the condom,as I was very diligent about birth control.
I haven't written about him yet, but Bob (that husband) was controlling manipulative, emotionally abusive egomaniac with some serious issues. He was Iranian and, I must say, whatever the cliche's are about those men, they are mostly true (such as movie "Not without my daughter").
I've never told him I gotten pregnant and arranged for an abortion straight away. The trick was to keep it  from him.
We just moved to a new city and had no friends yet, so I couldn't tell him that I was going to "stay with a girlfriend" overnight.
In America, abortion clinics put you completely "under" (full anestesia)  for DNC, so when you turn up for the appointment, they require someone to accompany you,to drive you home,etc.
As those clinics schedule all the abortions on a certain day, the waiting room is usually full. I wore a skirt with elastic waist and hid my car keys in the waistband. When the nurse asked me if I have some one with me I nodded enthusiastically and pointed in the general direction of the waiting room. She didn't ask any further questions.
After the procedure,you are wheeled into a "waiting room", where nurse wakes you up. They put you in the wheelchair and take you out into the reception. They do monitor things, but as so many people come and go, it is possible to slip away.
That's what I did. To this day, I have no idea how I've made it home unharmed: I was falling asleep at every red light and trying to force myself awake was proving to be a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. But I did make it. I slept for four hours until Bob came home and announced that we were going to drive to California (about 6 hour drive) to pick up the rest of our stuff that night. He said he was too tired to drive after hard day at work (he was a Restaurant Manager) and I had to do the driving.
Granted, I wasn't really sleepy by then-most of the drug has worn off, but it was still a dangerous thing to do. But I had no choice.
We've made it there safely and Bob never knew what I've done. He would've probably killed me if he did (I speak from experience,as he certainly tried to kill me, or at least seriously harm me, several times during our marriage).

Parenting is not my cup of tea. I know that in my heart of hearts.
I realise how controversial the subject is: there are very passionate advocates and opponents.
I do believe we need to see the "whole picture" and take all the circumstances into the account before we rush into judgment.

2 comments:

  1. Sounds worth seeing and thought provoking. Very much like you blogs. Your opinions are direct and strong. I am also strongly pro choice. I guess all else I have to add is this latest blog adds a little more to the very interesting story of your life.

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  2. I'm just like you - I am great with kids and I like other people's kids, but I have no desire to be tied down. I know for a fact that I would be deeply resentful of a child taking away my freedom and I am sure their happiness would suffer because of it. And then I would most likely feel guilty for being a terrible mother.

    I get so pissed off when people (especially family members) make all these stupid assumptions about me being "clucky", my biological clock or eventually wanting kids etc. I am not a maternal person in the slightest. "Biology is not destiny" as they say, and I know it's know my destiny to have kids.

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